The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 13, 2006


Carlisle School adopts Sitton Spelling Program

The Carlisle School has a new spelling program said reading specialists Donna Clapp and Sue LaPorte at the January 4 School Committee meeting. Discussing the differences between a traditional elementary spelling program and the new Sitton Program, Clapp and LaPorte said they were pleased with the results of the transition. The Sitton Program, introduced as a pilot in the third grade last January, is now used in grades two through five. The goal is spelling mastery in everyday writing, unlike the previous traditional spelling program which emphasized memorization of word lists. The Sitton Program "begins with essential skills and concepts that can be applied to all words," explained the teachers.

Background on Sitton Program

The developer of the program, educator Rebecca Sitton who, according to her website, holds degrees in Speech Pathology-Audiology and Education, Special Education, and certificates in Extreme Learning Problems, Early Childhood Education, and School Administration, offers a series of eight "sourcebooks" containing units for each grade level. The books focus on three basic areas — general skills (spelling and language-related activities), word study (assessments on introduced words including the 100 "everyday" words, and setting expectations on the level of correctness in writing.

The units in the sourcebooks are used as resources to structure the spelling needs for classes and can be further individualized to challenge high-performers and support low-performers. For example, the fifth grade units include exercises in proofreading, developing abilities to visualize and remember words, word games, vocabulary, word study, phonics, problem solving, and mastering the spelling of high-frequency words.

Economical program

The Sitton Program has been very good for the school budget, explained Clapp. Each grade may make copies of all the exercises and information in the grade-level sourcebook.

Program pros and cons

There are many positive reviews of the Sitton Program on the Internet from elementary schools. In discussion of how the program has fit into the classroom structure in Carlisle, Clapp noted the time needed to transition and the training required. One or more teachers need to be trained to understand how to use the variety of materials offered, and the program takes more classroom time. "How are people balancing the time commitment?" asked Carlisle School Committee Chair David Dockterman. "That's our challenge," answered LaPorte.

Negative online reviews of the Sitton Program are few, but a 1999 review by Dr. Patrick Groff was published on the National Right to Read Foundation web site ( In it he states: "The Sitton spelling program is based on a disabling false premise. Sitton wrongly perceives that the degree of difficulty a student will have in learning to spell a word is closely related to how frequently that word appears in published written materials of various kinds." Sitton's web site responds by explaining Groff has not evaluated the depth of the Sitton Program, and adds, "Rebecca Sitton's approach to spelling includes more phonics and spelling patterns than any other spelling program." The program has been upgraded since Groff reviewed it.

SIPPS used in first grade

The first grades are using a separate program, the SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phoneme Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Word) Program. The SIPPS Program is a decoding program, focused on phonics and word recognition. The program in first grade begins with phoneme awareness (recognition of syllables, rhymes, alliteration, contrasting sounds, segmentation of a word, and adding or deleting sounds from words), phonics, high-frequency sight words, and spelling. It is appropriate for beginning readers, as well as an intervention tool for older students.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito